Pakistani FM heads to Moscow today as efforts on to finalize oil deal

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari speaks during a press conference in Karachi on October 15, 2022. (AFP/File)
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Updated 29 January 2023

Pakistani FM heads to Moscow today as efforts on to finalize oil deal

  • Russia last week conceptually agreed to provide cheap crude oil to cash-strapped Pakistan on easy payment terms
  • Bhutto-Zardari will meet his Russian counterpart and deliberate upon the 'entire spectrum' of bilateral relations

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari will be leaving for Moscow today, according to the Pakistani foreign office, amid efforts to finalize an oil deal between cash-strapped Pakistan and Russia. 

This is Bhutto-Zardari maiden visit to Russia since becoming the foreign minister last year. It follows the visit of a Russian delegation to Islamabad to attend the 8th Pakistan-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission (IGC) meetings in Islamabad earlier this month.  

The Russian delegation signed multiple memoranda of understanding with Pakistan in different sectors and also conceptually agreed to provide cheap crude oil to the cash-strapped South Asian nation, which has been struggling for months to meet its energy needs amid a severe forex crunch. 

In view of Pakistan’s deteriorating economic conditions and its forex reserves declining to a staggering $3.6 billion, Russia has also said it will allow Islamabad to pay for the energy imports in currencies of friendly countries. 

“Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will undertake an official visit to Moscow at the invitation of Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov from 29-30 January 2023,” the Pakistani foreign office said in a statement on Saturday. 

“The foreign minister will hold official talks with his Russian counterpart where the two sides would deliberate upon the entire spectrum of bilateral relations and exchange views on regional and international issues of mutual interest.” 

Over the decades, Pakistan-Russia ties have seen many ups and downs, mainly due to the Islamabad’s alliance with Washington. But in recent years, relations between the two states have warmed up as a countermeasure to proximity between India and the United States (US) on world issues. 

On Friday, Reuters reported that Independent Russian oil refiner Forteinvest had clinched a deal that will see 1,000 tons of Russian gasoline sent to Pakistan by land for the first time. 

The development came days after US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said “now is not the time” to bolster economic ties with Russia, as the West continues to find ways to curtail Moscow’s finances due to its invasion of Ukraine. 

The Pakistani government, however, reiterated that the South Asian country would go ahead with the oil deal with Russia, adding that all deals will be finalized by March and oil will arrive in Pakistan by the end of April.  

In continuing stand-off with government, Pakistani pharma union calls for price hike of 262 drugs

Updated 16 sec ago

In continuing stand-off with government, Pakistani pharma union calls for price hike of 262 drugs

  • Pakistan in April approved rise of up to 20 percent in retail prices of general medicines and 14 percent for essential ones
  • Associations have been demanding an across-the-board 39 percent rise, warning that the industry could otherwise collapse

KARACHI: The Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) on Monday called on the federal government to allow an increase in the prices of 262 medicines, the latest in a stand-off with an industry struggling to stem losses from soaring inflation and a weakened currency.

Since June, local and multinational companies have been lobbying the government to raise prices through industry lobby groups like the Pharma Bureau and the PPMA.

Pakistan last approved a rise of up to 20 percent in retail prices of general medicines and 14 percent for essential ones in April, prompting immediate criticism from drug manufacturers who said the increases were too small. Associations have been demanding an across-the-board 39 percent rise, warning that the industry could otherwise collapse.

In its statement on Monday, PPMA said a delay in the price hike would mean “more essential drugs wouldn’t be available in the local market.”

“Revision in prices of these medicines had become highly essential as the last time such an increase had been allowed by the government the value of the dollar was less than Rs 200,” PPMA Central Chairman Mian Khalid Misbah-ur-Rehman was quoted in the statement as saying.

On Monday, the dollar was worth Rs281.75 for buying and Rs284.75 for selling, according to the Exchange Companies Association of Pakistan.

 “In addition to the phenomenal increase in the dollar exchange rate, the production cost of medicines has increased manifold due to record inflation,” Rehman said.

Pakistan’s weekly inflation rate spiked to the highest level in six months in the week ending on December 7, driven by surging food and fuel prices, as per data released by the government.

Rehman warned that more multinational drug producers would be forced to wind up their businesses if the government kept delaying the decision to allow an increase in the prices of medicines.

“The number of multinational pharmaceutical companies in Pakistan has already significantly decreased over the past many years as any further reduction in their number will go against the current efforts of the government to attract foreign investment to Pakistan,” the PPMA chairman said.

Data from the statistics bureau released in March showed the pharma industry had cut overall output by 55 percent since June 2022.

Over 100 essential drugs were already unavailable in the market, Rehman added:

“The patients in such a scenario rely on spurious and smuggled drugs when the locally produced medicines aren’t available in the market.”

PPMA said the sustainability of the Pakistani pharmaceutical industry, which met up to 95 percent demand for medicines in the country, would be “seriously threatened” if the government didn’t review its drug pricing system.

“We have been constantly calling upon the government to pay heed to the ground realities affecting the drug producers in the country as the long-pending hardship cases of medicines should be expeditiously disposed of as per the law,” the PPMA chairman said.

Pakistan’s annual pharmaceutical exports stand at around$300 million, which Rehman said could be increased to $5 billion if the government “consistently implements favorable policies for the drug industry allowing it to adopt state-of-the-art production technologies.”

Pakistan apprises UAE of ongoing privatization process, investment opportunities

Updated 11 December 2023

Pakistan apprises UAE of ongoing privatization process, investment opportunities

  • Pakistan has earmarked 10 firms for privatization or turnaround efforts as it strives to deliver reforms under IMF bailout
  • Pakistan has also been discussing outsourcing operations of several of its state-owned assets to outside companies

ISLAMABAD: Hamad Obaid Ibrahim Salem Al-Zaabi, UAE’s ambassador to Islamabad, called on Pakistani Privatization Minister Fawad Hasan Fawad on Monday and discussed the ongoing privatization of state entities and opportunities for future investment, state-run news agency APP said.

Pakistan’s caretaker government said in September it would improve governance at state-owned companies and earmarked 10 for privatization or turnaround efforts, as it strives to deliver reforms under its International Monetary Fund bailout.

Under the $3 billion bailout package from the IMF, which was critical in averting a sovereign debt default, state-owned entities (SOEs), whose losses are burning a hole in government finances, will need stronger governance.

As of 2020, the accumulated losses for SOEs amounted to 500 billion rupees ($1.74 billion), according to data from the finance ministry released in September.

“Fawad Hasan Fawad apprised the Ambassador of the ongoing privatization process in Pakistan and the opportunities of investment that may arise in the near future which can provide a very good return on investment,” APP said after the meeting between the minister and the envoy. 

“Issues of mutual interest and cooperation came under discussion at length.”

Pakistan has also been discussing outsourcing operations of several of its state-owned assets to outside companies, with local media reporting interest from firms in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and China.

In March, the government kicked off outsourcing of operations and land assets at three major airports to be run under a public private partnership, a move to generate foreign exchange reserves for its ailing economy.

The government has budgeted only about 15 billion Pakistani rupees ($52.42 million) in receipts from a stalled privatization process in its budget for the fiscal year 2024.

Mari Petroleum announces new gas discovery, joins ‘billion-dollar club’ at Pakistan stock market

Updated 11 December 2023

Mari Petroleum announces new gas discovery, joins ‘billion-dollar club’ at Pakistan stock market

  • Pakistan’s leftover oil and gas reserves will be fully consumed in the next 15 years
  • Pakistan currently relies on imports to meet its growing demand, faces regular outages

KARACHI: Pakistan’s Mari Petroleum Company on Monday announced it had discovered around 17 million standard cubic feet per day (mmscfd) of gas from a well in the southern Sindh province, as the exploration giant joins the “billion-dollar club” of companies at the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX).

According to data from the Pakistan Petroleum Information Services, Pakistan’s leftover oil and gas reserves will be fully consumed in the next 15 years. Currently, the South Asian nation of 240 million people relies on imports to meet its growing demand and faces regular scheduled gas outages, also known as load shedding.

In a stock filing on Monday, Mari said drilling of a third horizontal well had been carried out in the Habib Rahi Limestone (HRL) Reservoir of the Mari Gas Field in Daharki in Sindh province. The well is part of the Mari Field Revitalization Project “aimed at better managing the delivery pressure, sustaining the gas production, and optimal reserves recovery, all leading to the arrest of the depletion in production.”

“The well was drilled to a total measured depth of 1,740 meters with a horizontal section length of around 750 meters,” the stock filing said.

“After completion, the well was tested at a rate of around 17 million standard cubic feet per day of gas at a flowing wellhead pressure of 470 pounds per square inch gauge (psig).”

The well will be put on regular production immediately after releasing the drilling rig, Mari said, adding that it was evaluating opportunities to drill additional horizontal wells.

In October this year, Mari announced a discovery of around 8 mmscfd gas from another well in Daharki, which is being supplied to the Sui Norther Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL). 

The company said the new supply of gas would contribute in reducing the energy demand-supply gap in the country this winter season, and help save foreign exchange through indigenous hydrocarbon production. 

The field supplies gas to various sectors, including power, fertilizer, industry, and domestic consumers.

With the latest discoveries of gas, Pakistan’s self-sufficiency in gas increased from 71.3 percent to 76.26 percent during the November 24-30 period. The average per day consumption of Pakistan remains 4,100 mmscfd while production has increased from 2,923 mmcfd to 31,27 mmcfd, according to the data released by Petroleum Club of Pakistan on Monday.

In a separate development, Mari has joined the “billion-dollar club” at the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) by achieving market capitalization of $1 billion. 

There are now seven listed companies in Pakistan with a market value of over a billion dollars, namely the Oil and Gas Development Company Limited, Colgate, Nestle, Meezan, Pakistan Petroleum Limited, Pak Tobacco, and Mari Petroleum, according to Topline Securities research.

There were only two listed companies, OGDCL and Nestle, in Pakistan five months ago.

The market cap of the listed companies has increased amid a historical growth and bullish trend prevailing at the Pakistan Stock Exchange, with the benchmark KSE100 index closing at 66,012 points on Monday.

Shares prices of Mari increased by 4.9 percent to Rs2,168.82 on the back of gas discovery announcements on Monday.

Pakistan not here to compete but beat Australia, says team director Hafeez

Updated 11 December 2023

Pakistan not here to compete but beat Australia, says team director Hafeez

  • Pakistan play their first Test match of the three-match series against Australia on Dec. 14 in Perth
  • Hafeez says Canberra pitch where Pakistan face PM XI was ‘slowest pitch’ a visiting side could play on 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan men’s cricket Team Director Mohammad Hafeez said on Monday the visitors had arrived in Australia not to compete but beat the home side, as the green shirts brace for a tough challenge against the World Test champions when their three-match Test series kicks off this week. 

Pakistan face Australia in the first Test match at Perth on Dec. 14. The visitors have traditionally found playing in Australia harder than other venues around the world, having lost their last 14 Tests in the country, spanning five whitewashes.

Australia’s pace battery, in the form of skipper Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Scott Boland and Mitchell Starc is one of the most feared in the world. Pakistani batters have fared poorly in the Test format, with its batters traditionally finding it difficult to bat on the bouncy Australia surfaces. 

“Everyone is excited to take the challenge, performing in Australia would be great for them,” Hafeez told reporters at the WACA ground. “As a Pakistan team, we are here to beat Australia, not to compete here.”

The former Pakistani cricketer said Shan Masood’s side had done well in the training session. 

“We have ticked most of the boxes in our training,” he said. “Everyone on the team is excited to showcase their ability and eager to win. Unfortunately, Abrar Ahmed is unfit but everyone else is fit and ready to take on Australia.”

Ahmed was ruled out of the Perth Test match last week due to a leg injury. Pakistani spinner Sajid Khan has been called up to be his replacement. 

Hafeez seemed annoyed by the tour arrangements for Pakistan’s four-day match against the PM XI side in Canberra last week, at one point implying it might have been tactical.

“That was the slowest pitch a visiting team could ever play on in Australia,” he said. “The disappointment was really high because we weren’t expecting these kinds of arrangements. Maybe it’s tactical but we’re ready for it. We’re not using it as an excuse, we’re absolutely ready for the challenges coming up.”


Pakistan squad: Shan Masood (captain), Aamir Jamal, Abdullah Shafique, Abrar Ahmed, Babar Azam, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Khurram Shahzad, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Mohammad Wasim Jr., Noman Ali, Saim Ayub, Salman Ali Agha, Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Saud Shakeel and Shaheen Shah Afridi

Australia squad: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Mitchell Marsh, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins (captain), Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Scott Boland, Cameron Green, Lance Morris

Series schedule

First Test: Dec. 14-18, Perth

Second Test: Dec. 26-30, Melbourne

Third Test: Jan. 3-7, Sydney

What led to Kashmir decision by India’s top court?

Updated 11 December 2023

What led to Kashmir decision by India’s top court?

  • Disputed Himalayan region is claimed in full but ruled in part by both India and Pakistan 
  • Dispute over Kashmir sparked first two of three wars between India and Pakistan since 1947

NEW DELHI: India’s Supreme Court upheld on Monday a 2019 decision by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to revoke special status for Kashmir and split the region into two federally administered territories.

The disputed Himalayan region is claimed in full, though ruled in part by both India and Pakistan since their independence from Britain in 1947, with the nuclear-armed neighbors having fought two of their three wars over it.

Here are some facts about Kashmir and the constitutional change.

After partition of the subcontinent in 1947, Kashmir was expected to go to Pakistan, as other Muslim-majority regions did. Its Hindu ruler wanted to stay independent, but faced with an invasion by Muslim tribesmen from Pakistan, he acceded to India in October 1947 in return for help against the invaders.

Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which provided autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir, was drafted in 1947 by Sheikh Abdullah, then the state’s prime minister, and accepted by India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

Classified only as a temporary provision, it was included in the Indian constitution in October 1949.

A further provision added to the constitution in 1954 as part of Article 370, article 35A empowered state lawmakers to ensure special rights and privileges for permanent residents of the state.

But it was scrapped with the repeal of Article 370, allowing non-Kashmiris to buy property in the region and ending local control over state government jobs and admission to colleges.

The dispute over the former princely state sparked the first two of three wars between India and Pakistan after independence in 1947. They fought a second in 1965, and a third, largely over what become Bangladesh, in 1971.

For decades, the armies of India and Pakistan have faced off over the the Line of Control (LoC), a UN-monitored cease-fire line agreed in 1972, that divides the areas each administers.

The foes fought a 1999 battle along the LoC that some analysts described as an undeclared war. Their forces exchanged regular gunfire over the LoC until a truce in late 2003, which has largely held since.

Resentment by many Muslims in Indian Kashmir over what they saw as heavy-handed rule by New Delhi sparked an insurgency by separatists in 1989, with some backing Pakistan, while others sought independence for Kashmir.

India responded by pouring in troops, and accused Pakistan of backing the separatists, in particular by arming and training fighters in its part of Kashmir and sending them into Indian Kashmir. Pakistan denies that, saying it only offers political support to the Kashmiri people.

Since 2019, India has announced more investments for the region in areas such as industries, health care, education and tourism. It recently listed Kashmir’s new-found lithium reserves for private mining.

Tourism has grown since 2019 and separatist violence has fallen, the government says, with a G20 meet on tourism held in Srinagar this year during India’s presidency of the bloc.

These consist of the smaller Azad, or “Free,” Kashmir and the Northern Areas that formed part of the state before independence. Pakistan backs a UN-mandated referendum to settle the dispute over the region, expecting that the majority of Kashmiris would opt to join Pakistan.

The Himalayan region has two capitals, Jammu in winter, and Srinagar in summer.

Parts of Kashmir are strikingly beautiful, with forest-clad mountains, rivers running through lush valleys and lakes ringed by willow trees.

Indian Kashmir sprawls over 42,241 sq km (16,300 sq miles). Before the region was split, its size of 222,236 sq km (86,000 sq miles) was slightly bigger than the US state of Utah and almost as big as Britain.

The western Himalayan region is bounded by Pakistan to the west, Afghanistan to the northwest, China to the northeast, and India to the south.

There are more than 12 million people in Indian Kashmir and Ladakh and more than four million in Azad Kashmir. About 70 percent are Muslims and the rest Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists in Indian Kashmir.

It is about 80 percent based on agriculture, with crops such as rice, maize, apples and saffron. The area is also known for handicrafts such as carpets, woodcarving, woollens and silk.